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Stephen Howell, Plant Sciences Institute, (515) 294-5267 (before June 21 or after July 7)
Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute has awarded six promising research projects with start-up funds.

The two-year grants were awarded to Iowa State faculty through a competitive program intended to stimulate excellence in plant science research.

"The grants program is integral to the institute's mission of promoting excellence in plant science research through multidisciplinary collaboration," said Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute. "We're very pleased to initiate these quality research projects which have great potential for long-term success."

The research projects are described below.
  • Coralie Lashbrook, horticulture, will develop a functional genomic system to identify genes that cause plants to shed reproductive structures before they are ready for harvest. Lashbrook's research will focus on cotton and will pave the way for studies in identifying genetic pathways that coordinate plant responses to internal and external environments and improving plant quality and productivity. Lashbrook conducts research in the Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses.

  • Soybean crops suffer a yield loss of $120 million annually due to a root and stem disease caused by Phytophythora sojae, according to Madan Bhattacharyya, agronomy. Bhattacharyya will identify specific amino acids that are involved in soybean cell death from Phytophythora sojae. The research is expected to contribute to the disease resistance capabilities of the soybean. Bhattacharyya is a researcher in the Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses and the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics.

  • David Oliver, botany, will develop a proteomics technique to determine how plants protect themselves from oxidative damage caused by environmental stress. Oliver will study three enzyme families located in different cellular components that he believes protect cells from stress. Oliver is a researcher in the Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses, the Center for Designer Crops, the Center for Plant Transformation and Gene Expression and the Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition.

  • Acyl-CoA is an important building block in plant metabolism leading to agricultural products such as oil, waxes and amino acids. Basil Nikolau, biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology, and Edward Yeung, chemistry, will develop new technologies capable of screening various factors that affect production of acyl-CoA in plants. Nikolau is interim director of the Center for Designer Crops and a researcher in the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics, the Center for Plant Transformation and Gene Expression, the Center for Plant Genomics, and the Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition. Yeung is a researcher in the Center for Plant Genomics.

  • Organisms coordinate the actions of the thousands of genes in their genome through gene networks. Xun Gu, zoology/genetics and agronomy will study how gene networks change over evolutionary time using systems biology, a computational study of biological processes as wholes, not individual systems. Systems biology is an emerging field that has been recognized as a crucial tool for examining complex biological systems. Gu conducts research in the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bionformatics and Biological Statistics.

  • Charles Hurburgh, agricultural and biosystems engineering, will develop a high throughput spectroscopic method to identify corn and bean germplasms. The technology under development will be much faster than currently used DNA methods. The new tools can be used, for example, to distinguish Roundup Ready soybeans from conventional beans at a glance. Hurburgh conducts research in the Center for Crops Utilization Research and the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics.
The Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University is dedicated to becoming one of the world's leading plant science research institutes. More than 200 faculty from the College of Agriculture, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Engineering conduct research in nine centers of the institute. They seek fundamental knowledge about plant systems to help feed the growing world population, strengthen human health and nutrition, improve crop quality and yield, foster environmental sustainability and expand the uses of plants for biobased products and bioenergy. The Plant Sciences Institute supports the training of students for exciting career opportunities and promotes new technologies to aid in the economic development of agriculture and industry throughout the state. The institute is supported through public and private funding.


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